A New Look at Old Convictions – UPDATED WITH VIDEO

Kings County District Attorney Kenneth P. Thompson was the featured speaker at the New York City Bar Association last Wednesday at a panel that explored the causes of, and remedies for, wrongful convictions.

DA Thompson discussed the accomplishments and challenges of the Conviction Review Unit he established in fulfillment of his campaign promise. Addressing a large, engaged audience that included several exonerees whose convictions his office had moved to vacate, along with Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck and other interested parties, Thompson described the problem of wrongful convictions that he inherited, and how his office is working to revisit cases and prevent similar problems in the future. Thompson’s speech concluded a lively, and at times emotional, roundtable discussion on wrongful convictions, including those associated with retired Detective Louis Scarcella in Brooklyn. The panelists, including defense attorney Ron Kuby and New York Times columnist Jim Dwyer, analyzed the root causes of the problem and the need for systemic reform.

Ron Kuby, Anthony Yarbough and Steven M. Cohen Recent exoneree Anthony Yarbough described the 15-hour interrogation he endured as a teenager after reporting that his mother and sister had been murdered, and described his bewilderment at realizing that he was the prime suspect in the case. Rebecca Freedman, of the Exoneration Initiative, explained the rigorous process her team uses to sift through thousands of innocence claims. Steven M. Cohen spoke from his perspective as a former prosecutor and defense attorney about the inherent challenges of any conviction review process. The panel, “A New Look at Old Convictions,” was moderated by Dorothy Heyl of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley and McCloy, and presented by the City Bar’s Criminal Law Committee, chaired by Sharon McCarthy, along with the Government Ethics and Criminal Advocacy Committees. UPDATE: Watch a video of the panel below: